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Showing posts from 2014

ePortfolios as Summary Assessment

An ePortfolio is a chance for a student to make the argument that they have mastered all the objectives in a course.  

In the climax of Oliver Stone’s film JFK, Jim Garrison sums up his entire case by providing pieces of evidence in the hope of finding Clay Shaw guilty of conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.  Although the accuracy of many of the facts in the movie have been brought into question,  there is no doubt that the entire closing argument sequence of the film is a masterclass in editing and screenwriting.  Stone uses multiple film stocks to create the sense of cinema verite alongside of stocks that denote a subjective perspective.  If you have never seen it or haven’t seen the section in a while, seek it out.  I could probably teach an entire semester course on it.



The ultimate goal of the ePortfolio in my class is to take the place of a traditional paper and pencil final exam.  The portfolio has a home page and a separate page for each unit.  The purpose of each page i…

My First PDSA Cycle

After visiting the Menomonee Falls School District I came away with a better idea of what the Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle looks like in the classroom.   Tony Stark did not build Iron Man in a day. (OK fanboys I should really be talking about the Mark II suit not "Iron Man")  He followed a cycle of failure and learning from that failure. This can clearly be seen in this clip from Iron Man



I know I've talked about failure from success before, but that process is formalized in the PDSA cycle I saw in full effect in the Menomonee Falls School District.  My first true running of the cycle was in my last unit which covered rotational motion. This is a brief rundown of my first attempt at the cycle with my students.

Plan 
To make the plan process more personalized, I had students draft their own goal for the unit.  That goal was then placed in what I was calling the objective progress sheet.  It was a Google Sheet with a space of the unit goal, tracking of progress towards obje…

Kahoot! and the Pressure of High Stakes Testing

In my AP classroom, I have presented my students with a conundrum.  I have created an environment where it is OK to fail because they will get an opportunity to try again.  But, many of them will be taking the AP exam for the course in order to get college credit. This is a high stakes, high pressure test.  How do I prepare them for the test but still allow them the freedom to fail on a daily basis?
There are many high pressure professions in the world.  I can't imagine a greater pressure cooker, though, then active military duty.  Within that microcosm, it doesn't get any more life or death than being part of an explosive disposal team.  Katherine Bigelow's best picture winning film The Hurt Locker puts the viewer into the high stakes world of these brave soldiers.  It is important to note that Katherine Bigelow won the Academy Award for best director for her work on this film, the first woman to ever win this award.





This leads me to a recent classroom activity I was tu…

It Takes Failure to Succeed.

Non-content skills are what help to separate a traditional classroom project from one in a project based classroom.  
In our current unit in AP Physics, students a critiquing how well a specific project teaches rotational motion to students. They are playing the role of a science teacher to see how well the project they found teaches the concepts tied to the unit's learning objectives.  The first step of this project is attempting to build a car powered by a mousetrap.  This is a process with a high failure rate.  Students need to use non-content skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, flexibility, and adaptability to build a working product.

The video below highlights how some students used critical analysis of their failures to change their designs and find success.




As a teacher it is really important to let students struggle but not feel hopeless.  It's a fine line the teacher has to walk between giving useful suggestions and giving away the keys to success.

Do Your Students Take the Red Pill?

Is the devil you know better than the devil you don't?

I want to thank my friend and colleague Andelee Espinosa for providing me with the topic and inspiration for this blog post.   

As outlined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the hero begins her story as an individual who may feel out of place in the ordinary world.  A spiritual aid will come to the hero and give her a call to adventure or quest that is usually initially refused, leading to disaster.  After this disaster, the hero has no choice but to embark on the adventure.  It is the spiritual aid who gives our hero the tools to complete the quest, but the hero must finish it on her own. Through the journey our hero faces a series of tests and at the end she reaches the Supreme Ordeal, or the ultimate test.

The film The Matrix follows the hero's journey to a tee. In the film, Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo, is living in a world that appears to be normal, but he keeps questioning if there is something more t…

If My Students Are Being Asked to Take Risks, Why am I Playing It Safe?

When I looked at my first set of AP Physics 1 video projects on momentum, I thought they were very good.  Groups took them into some very unexpected and interesting places.  I'll share more examples in future posts as the inspiration strikes me.  This project in particular struck me because in it I saw the seeds for something greater. In this project, I saw the possibilities for tying together seemingly desperate content areas such as physics, art, and history.

Watch it and hopefully you'll see what I mean:




I realized that all of my students showed great ambition in their projects.  They all took risks both emotionally (acting like a fool because the script called for it) to physical (playing simulating collisions while riding in trash cans and tacking each other in the snow.)  It was me who lacked the real ambition to try to find the ways that this project could truly bring in standards from other content areas.  I can just imagine this video becoming so much more if I had a…

Using CCI to Crack the Enigma of Initiative Fatigue or How Benedict Cumberbatch Will Save My Sanity

Alan Turing was a British cryptanalysis who helped crack the code of the German Enigma machine, a cipher machine, during World War II. By cracking this code, Turing helped turn the tide of the Second World War. 
 In the new film The Immitation Game, Turing is played by the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch (of Sherlock fame)




As educators, we have our own code to break. This year at Brookfield Central High School teachers were presented with a code, a cipher, an Enigma of our own.

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How could we as teachers ever hope to crack this code? Well, I recently discovered the key to unlocking the code into its different pieces (educator effectiveness, student learning outcomes, professional practice goals, personalized learning communities, positive behavior intervention strategies, plan, do, study, act cycle, A3 forms, unit by design, and response to intervention). This new key not only decoded the enigma, it put them into a frame work where they made sense and could …